Book Review: Balraj Sahni: An Autobiography

I have Richard, over at Dances on the Footpath, to thank for this. Several years back, Richard had linked a blog post to a URL from where one could download Balraj Sahni’s autobiography. Since I’m a fan of Mr Sahni’s, I did so, promptly (which was just as well, since sometime later, that link went dead). What with this and that, however, I didn’t get around to reading the book until a week or so back—and then I wished I’d taken the time to read it earlier.

Balraj Sahni in Anuradha

Published, according to various sources, by Hind Pocket Books, this autobiography was originally written in Hindi. This version (it can be read online, here) is in English, so has obviously been translated by someone—I have no idea who. Chronologically speaking, it’s an interestingly placed book, because while it’s obviously been written sometime in the late 60s (Sahni refers to Haqeeqat, which was released in 1964, as already having been made, but mentions Parikshit Sahni, whose first major film was Anokhi Raat, in 1968, as still doing the rounds of the producers, trying to get a role as an adult actor).

What Balraj Sahni actually focuses on in the course of autobiography is not his life as a film star, but his life as child (and later a man) fascinated by films (and by various other, often vastly different) things. He begins with his childhood, as the son of a wealthy businessman in Rawalpindi—where, in the hinterland, Balraj Sahni had his first brush with cinema: Hollywood films (pre Hayes Code!) screened in villages, the films replete with adventure and romance and more, some of which would definitely be X-rated now.

From there, Sahni’s narrative moves on to his days as a schoolboy in Rawalpindi, and the arrival of the first cinema theatre in the city—to which he and fellow schoolboys would go, giving their parents the excuse that these Hollywood films were all based on classic literature, so were a way of expanding their knowledge of Western literature. Which our parents took with a pinch of salt, Sahni admits.

This tinged-with-humour, often self-effacing (even self-deprecating) tone is followed right through the book. Considering he went on to become such a major actor—not just popular, but well-respected and with a dignity that has seen him being lauded by both critics and the aam janta—Balraj Sahni comes across as a man with few illusions about himself. The instances where he talks disparagingly about himself (or, in one memorable place, where he quotes Clare Mendonca—then editor of Filmfare, after whom the Clare Awards were known—as having compared his acting in Badnaam to that of a corpse) are a refreshing change from the more usual self-glorification of the famous.

The autobiography is pretty much about Sahni’s professional life, and that not just in films—to which he came relatively late, with his first major film, Dharti ke Laal, being released in 1946, when Sahni was 33 years old. Before that, he had taught at Shantiniketan, along with his wife Damayanti ‘Dammo’; he and Dammo had also worked at Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram; and, for four years during World War II, the couple had worked at the BBC in London.

Balraj Sahni with his wife Damayanti, in 1936

And then there’s Sahni’s association with communism, and with the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), which he joined while in Bombay, and which was to go on to be such an important part of his life in the years just after his return to India from the UK. IPTA first made Balraj Sahni a recognizable face onscreen (Dharti ke Laal was an IPTA production).

Balraj Sahni in Dharti ke Laal

IPTA also brought him into contact with other like-minded individuals, who were to go on to become familiar names (and in some cases, familiar faces) to cinemagoers. Sahir Ludhianvi and Chetan Anand, among them—and Durga Khote, whose stage debut was in an IPTA play.

Sahni’s belief in communism shines through every now and then as he recounts his work at IPTA and with the Communist Party. He talks about what communism meant in the pre-and post-Partition period, how it should have worked, what it achieved and what it could have achieved. It’s an interesting political thread running through what might have been expected to be a predominantly cinema-centric memoir.

But there’s a lot about cinema in it. Sahni steers clear of gossip about personal lives; in fact, people looking for Sahni’s own personal life might be disappointed. While he does mention how heartbroken he was when Dammo died, the details of how he met and married her—or even his second wife, Tosh—are missing. And, except for a couple of brief anecdotes about his children Parikshit and Shabnam, there’s precious little about them either. There are, however, bits of trivia that have gone down in film lore: how Balraj Sahni met an amusing and very entertaining bus conductor named Badruddin, for example, and got him to act drunk in order to get a role in Navketan’s Baazi—and the immortal screen name of Johnny Walker. Or how, directing a very young Dev Anand in an IPTA play named Zubeida, saying, “Take it from me, you can never become an actor!” (Though Sahni himself clarifies that he has no recollection of having said that).

What fascinated me the most were the little things I didn’t know:  how Sahni and Dammo had initially been offered the lead roles in Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar. Or that Balraj Sahni—like David Abraham—was a fan of PG Wodehouse. Or that Balraj Sahni shot his scenes for the film Hulchul (in which he played a jailor) while, ironically enough, being in jail for communist activities—he used to put on his jailor’s uniform every day and be escorted by cops to the set for the shoot.

Balraj Sahni as the jailor in Hulchul

Or that Noel Corke—the little boy who acted in Taxi Driver (and whom I knew so far only as having been the son of the Anands’ landlord), was also the assistant cameraman in Haqeeqat.

Noel Corke, later assistant cameraman in Haqeeqat

The book comes to an end just after Balraj Sahni’s description of Do Bigha Zameen: there are several interesting behind the scenes anecdotes here. For instance, how a chance encounter with a poor man—who didn’t realize Balraj Sahni in costume as Shambhu was an actor—helped Sahni realize just how he needed to act, what emotions he was supposed to feel. Or how, when a group of poor people realized that this ‘poor man’ was actually an actor pretending to be poor, their sympathy and fellow-feeling for him evaporated instantly.

All in all, an engrossing book. I like Balraj Sahni a lot, and have always thought that he had a certain dignity, a quiet calm about him that endured even through some of the less likeable films of his that I’ve seen. Balraj Sahni: An Autobiography seems to suggest that the man was as dignified, as humble and self-effacing as he appears in some of his best films. Think the family-loving, friendly merchant of Waqt; the impoverished and desperate farmer-turned rickshaw-puller of Do Bigha Zameen. The far-from-home, sad Pathan who befriends a little girl in Kabuliwala… all, it seems, reflect the real Balraj Sahni in some way or the other.

Balraj Sahni in Kabuliwala

Worth a read if you, like me, are fond of Mr Sahni.

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60 thoughts on “Book Review: Balraj Sahni: An Autobiography

  1. Thanks for this review. I’d found a Marathi translation of his autobiography some time ago, and downloaded it. What with one thing or the other I haven’t got around to reading it so far. (That always sounds much better than saying I’ve been just plain lazy.) Thanks to you, I’ve now got the English version as well.

    Yes, Balraj Sahni, regardless of the role and the situation, always had an air of quiet dignity about him — even when he was obviously enjoying himself singing “Ae meri zohrajabeen”. That said, sometimes his screen attitude of suffering and fortitude and sacrifice could be quite exasperating, as for example in Do Raaste. When watching some of those films I’ve often fantasised about jumping into the scene, shaking him vigorously by the shoulders, and begging him to act like a normal human being, rather than some caricature of the ideal, all-forgiving elder brother/father/husband etc. Whether he was solely responsible, or whether the writers and directors were equally complicit, it was an injustice to his considerable talent.

    He seemed uncomfortable in films like Black Cat where he was forced into more conventionally filmi hero type of roles ( a characteristic that he shares with Naseeruddin Shah).

    Do Bigha Zameen is, of course, his tour de force. But my personal favourite is his role in Seema, where his restrained portrayal of the reform home superintendent was to Nutan’s dazzling performance as a beautiful hand-crafted filigree setting is to a sparkling diamond.

    • I agree with you re: Black Cat. In any case, NA Ansari’s films tend to put me off – they’re really a pastiche of the suspense genre (as far as I am concerned) – and Balraj Sahhni just did not fit that particular role. What it needed was a Feroze Khan or even, at a pinch, a Pradeep Kumar. Definitely not Sahni.

      “I’ve often fantasised about jumping into the scene, shaking him vigorously by the shoulders, and begging him to act like a normal human being, rather than some caricature of the ideal, all-forgiving elder brother/father/husband etc.

      Oh, I know what you mean! That happened to me with Ek Phool Do Maali, Bhabhi, Chhoti Bahen and a couple of others. I like him more in rather more nuanced roles – like Anuradha, Seema, Waqt, or Kabuliwala.

  2. Dusted Off, I read the book in Hindi a few years ago, an old battered book borrowed from a friend, and which I was honour bound to return. I remember being totally engrossed by it. What I also found fascinating was how similar the film industry was in its working, then as now. Please do share your English PDF with me if you can, would love to have it with me.

  3. Madhu, I first came across this book because of Bollyviewer. She was kind enough to share it with me, oh, a couple of years ago. And there it stayed until a year later. :) Which is how long it took for me to actually get around to reading it. He came across (in the book) much like he came across on screen – a polished, erudite gentle man. Yes, there is much political consciousness there, isn’t there? I think a lot of those folks in that period had it.

    Thanks for the review. It makes me want to read it again. :)

    • Thank you, Anu! Yes, there is a lot of political consciousness in the book. That surprised me (even though I knew he had been an important member of IPTA). And, to be very honest, I hadn’t known he’d been jailed for his communist activities. So that came as a revelation! Now I’m eager to watch Hulchul. :-)

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for the review, Balraj Sahni was a natural actor and his gentle reasoning voice always makes you want to listen.
    I admired him most in his last excellent movie, “Garam Hawa”.
    His other movies that I liked were `Do Raaste’, ‘Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani’ ‘Ek Phool Do Mali’ and ‘Bhabhi Ki Chudiya’
    Never disappointed us.

  5. Thanks for the review Madhu. Balraj Sahni has always remained one of the most convincing actors because it never felt like he was acting. This is the beauty of the best in the business; they never have to under or over act, they just make it look so believable. I don’t know of many others who could be in his league.

    Yes, I am keen on reading more about Balraj and from your review it appears that it contains exactly what I am looking for. Thanks for providing the link to the online version. I wish there was a hindi version available since real details are lost in translation some times.

    • I agree with you, Ashish – Balraj Sahni made it really look as if he wasn’t acting. He simply seemed to understand the character so well, he got under the skin of it and became the character. Interestingly, though, what comes across in his autobiography (which, as I’ve mentioned, stops just after Do Bigha Zameen, so actually does not talk about most of his really memorable roles) is a man who’s very unsure about his acting and how to go about it. He mentions, for example, trying to ask Dilip Kumar how to act, and getting a somewhat cryptic reply in return…

      Do read; it’s a fascinating work. I too wish the Hindi version was available; I would have preferred to read it in the original.

      • It is so interesting that the people who can handle success are the ones who self-doubt. This is is against the conventional wisdom. I remember reading a comment by Adam Grant (Give and Take author) about Rafael Nadal “Is self-doubt the key to sustained success?” mentioning an article in FT:
        http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/28ff29b4-78c4-11e3-a148-00144feabdc0.html

        I am not surprised to hear Balraj being unsure about himself. I know the real deal are those people who are down to earth and that is only possible if you don’t believe that you are sent on a special mission to earth, like many of our other celebrities think of themselves. :)

        • I didn’t have the time to read more than a couple of paragraphs of that article on Nadal, but it also reminded me of something my mother says quite often: “The supreme self-confidence of the fool” is what she refers to whenever she sees someone strutting about and believing – as you so aptly put it – that they were sent on a special mission to earth. I personally feel that the moment you start thinking you’re the cat’s whiskers, you stop aiming higher. It’s only when you think you still haven’t reached there, that you keep striving, keep trying to improve. And that is perhaps what makes people like Sahni or Nadal come across as so earnest and so humble.

          BTW, I am not now much of a tennis fan (I used to be, back in my teens) but you have just raised my liking for Nadal several notches! :-)

          • W. B. Yeats put it best when he wrote, “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

          • Just having finished the book, I can only think how brutally honest this man was! He was not ashamed to admit where he was wrong (read human) and his self-doubts make him all the more respectable in my eyes. As I was reading the last page, I realized how he didn’t want to write about the sunny days of his life, as he learned from Charlie Chaplin’s auto biography! As you pointed out the Do Beehga Zameen is where he pretty much finishes the book but that was way too early (1953) and the book starts as a flashback when he seemed to have mentioned two decades of bollywood experience.

            It was very interesting to read his interactions with Dileep Kumar, Johny Walker, Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, Swaranlata etc. I was surprised to know that screenplay was often left to the last minute and was left to the director and also didn’t realize that his original screenplay for Baazi was changed without his knowledge. His interaction with poor people during the shoot of scene in Do Beegha Zameen where they thought he was one of them and when they found out he is not, the disappointment and hatred in their eyes was so well described! It goes to show what a golden soul he was! Once again thanks for pointing us to this well written book though I wish I could get my hands on the original hindi version..

            • Glad you liked the book, Ashish! Yes, I was very impressed by his brutal honesty – he doesn’t stop from pointing out his own shortcomings and mistakes, which is such a refreshing change from most other celebrities. And the very fact that he stops at Do Bigha Zameen – which meant that many of his big hits had already been made, but he doesn’t dwell on them – further adds to that reluctance to glorify himself.

              I do wish, too, that the Hindi version was available. I would much rather have read this in Balraj Sahni’s own words .

  6. I read this book, in its original Hindi version way back – perhaps decades back- a few years after it released, I guess, I do not remember but I remember my mum spotting it at my circulating library and asking me to borrow it. Sahani held a special place in my mum’s heart- why?- Well I guess I have have mentioned the reasons a few times already, as I do not want to repeat myself, I will not once again go down memory lane.
    Coming back to the book, I remember what both mum and I liked about it was his honesty, for instance he reminiscences about Geeta Bali with whom he was doing a film.She was then not at her peak, he recalls overhearing her telling someone rather regretfully, that she has no choice but to act opposite Balraj Sahani. The implication being that Sahani was not a big time hero but she had no choice as big time heroes would not be interested in doing films with her. This anecdote was very amusing. Is it there in the English version?
    Talat Mehmood and Balraj Sahani were doing Sone Ki Chidiya when Talat Uncle witnessed a wonderful side of Sahani. I don’t remember the details, I heard this from Uncle a long time back but this much I remember that some workers in the industry were on strike, being daily wage earners they had no income, Sahani used to give them money so that they did not go hungry.
    You know I love it when books have such anecdotes, I just read today that the V.Shantaram foundation has released an encyclopedia of the Marathi film industry that is replete with anecdotes. I am sure it is an interesting book

    • “Well I guess I have have mentioned the reasons a few times already, as I do not want to repeat myself, I will not once again go down memory lane.

      Oh, I don’t think I remember this! I kept racking my brains trying to remember, but all I could remember was an anecdote regarding Talat Mahmood, not Sahni. So please, if you will, tell me again. Thank you in advance, Shilpi!

      Yes, that anecdote about Geeta Bali is there in the English version of the book too. :-)

      That bit of news about the encyclopedia on Marathi cinema reminded me that I am yet to watch a Marathi film. Any Marathi film. That really ought to be remedied…

      • Since you haven’t watched any Marathi film, and you’ve mentioned above in another comment that you’ve yet to watch Bhabhi Ki Choodiyaan, you could do worse than to watch both Bhabhi Ki Choodiyaan, and its Marathi original, Vahinichya Baangdya, with Sulochana in the main role. By common consensus, she’s done better than Meena Kumari, and that says a lot.

        • I would love to do that! Sadly, though I’ve searched time and again for Marathi films with English subtitles, they seem to be notoriously difficult to find. Even films that my Marathi friends have recommended to me – like Maanoos or Pathlaag – I haven’t been able to get hold of, subbed. Will look for this one too. I do hope I get it!

      • About Balraj Sahani, I had mentioned it I think in my blog. You see Balraj Sahani’s daughter passed away on March 6, 1972 (we later learnt from reports in the press that she committed suicide due to an unhappy marriage). As the following day was my birthday, my father told my mum that he would go to Sahani’s house to pay his condolences on March 8, unfortunately my father couldn’t keep his word as he too passed away on the 8th. While almost everyone from the film industry visited us, Sahani obviously couldn’t make it; neither did my mum expect him to do so, considering his own loss. He was very shattered by his daughter’s untimely demise. Just a few days after my father passed away, the door bell rang, when we opened the door we saw 2 gentlemen standing at our door step. They handed over an envelope to my mother saying it was a condolence letter from Balraj Sahani. My mother was absolutely stunned, later when she read the beautifully worded letter praising my father, my mother was moved. My mum never got over the fact that a person who was himself overwhelmed with grief, actually took time out to pen those beautiful words and saw to it that the letter was hand delivered to my mother.
        Just a year later Sahani himself passed away, what is worse he had to enact a scene for Garam Hawa that was similar to what he had to endure in real life. Garam Hawa was his last film and in that film too his daughter commits suicide due to an unhappy marriage.

        • Ah, yes. Now that you mention it, I remember this incident. Actually, as soon as I began reading – within the first couple of sentences – I recollected it. He must have had a lot of respect for your father, and of course, there’s the very thoughtfulness of a gesture like that.

          But I hadn’t known that Balraj Sahni’s daughter committed suicide, or that his onscreen daughter in Garam Hawa did the same. That must have terribly painful for him.

  7. Thank you for an excellent review. I too read parts of it thanks to Bollyviewer. I wish I had saved it. Balraj Sahni always came across as a dignified polished actor / person.
    I really liked Garam Hawa besides many others. I saw it with family and my parents could relate to it so well because of the partition, even though the film portrays a Muslim family, there wasn’t much difference in relationships and family. I watched Hum Log not that long ago, I hardly recognized him. He did portray his characters so well. The one thing that surprised me was his age. He passed away at 60 ? He looked much older in most of his movies, of course his roles were such, even then 60 was way too soon that we lost him. I hope I can get my hands on a hindi copy, if not, then one more book on my list for next trip to India. Perhaps Nai Sadak in Delhi might be resourceful.

    • Neeru, it’s out of print, so if you are lucky enough to find a second-hand copy, please buy one for me as well. :) I asked around in Bombay, but no one had it. Not even Strand could help me out there.

    • I really should watch Garam Hawa one of these days; I still haven’t seen it, even though the Partition and its aftermath are close to my heart (my mother’s family were caught in Amritsar and had to flee in 1947). On that topic (and related to Balraj Sahni), I thought Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas a brilliant book – I read it earlier this year, and found it very poignant.

      Oh, and yes: Balraj Sahni does look fairly old for his age, doesn’t he? Especially in films like Waqt and Pavitra Paapi.

        • Hmm. Possible. But from the way he writes about his life in Rawalpindi and then in Shantiniketan, Sevagram, etc (with references to what the political situation was back then), it seems to fit right in with the birth date. For example, he talks about silent films when he was a school boy and a college-going youth – which should be about right if he was born in 1913.

      • That must be hard on your family. Garam Hawa is a difficult watch. I saw it again much later on VHS and it took several stops and go to finish the movie. I have a book by ismat Chugtai and that is a hard read too. It’s taken over a year to read and still have not finished it. Gulzar’s Ravi Paar was the same, except they were short stories so you could pace it. I shudder thinking about what people went through in ’47.

        • Yes, Partition left some awful scars. My mother, even though she was so small (and their family weren’t in any real danger themselves, being Christians and therefore on neither ‘side’ so to say), remembers the horror of it very vividly. The bloodshed, the trains coming in loaded with corpses, the mobs chasing even after a single person just because he was from another community… terrifying.

  8. Madhu, I am glad you have finally reviewed this book, and I enjoyed reading your review. I meant to comment sooner, but my computer crashed Thursday night – while I was reading this post! (I haven’t replaced it yet, but I am using something temporarily that is working OK for now.)

    Thank you also for the reference to my post on this book (which can be found at http://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/yes-i-found-the-autobiography-of-balraj-sahni/ ). The link that I had provided may have disappeared at one point, but, actually, I replaced it. And then at the end of that post, I added a link to the same source that you linked to here. So, anyway, now people can get that autobiography from quite a few places!
    :

    • Richard, I did read on Facebook about your computer crashing, and guessed it would be a while before you were online again. Thanks for reading this! I’m glad you enjoyed the review. And thank you for the book, in the first place!

  9. I love Balraj Sahni and i love this book too. What i liked about this book was that unlike many a celeb, Balraj ji speaks his mind out and doesn’t minces any word. The whole auto biography is written in a very straight forward and to the point manner. And the best thing is Balraj ji doesn’t try to be politically correct or diplomatic. This is a refreshingly unbiased and undiplomatic autobiography. This integrity and sincerity was the strength of Balraj ji’s acting and remains the strong point of his writing too.

    • Very true. I too thought Balraj Sahni came across as very fresh and honest: a man without pretences. He tells the good with the bad – about himself and about others. What I also found nice was that he accords respect to people. Even when he recounts an incident which shows someone up in a far-from-perfect light, it’s done with a certain dignity. No hurling of brickbats.

  10. Back in the good old days of Bombay Doordarshan, we saw some of the choicest of Marathi films, the black& white films were really worth seeing. I discovered some fantastic Marathi actors like Raja Gosavi, his comedy was a class apart. Then there

    was Gajanan Jagirdar, an underrated actor whom nobody mentions today. In Ram Shastri you will find Jagirdar with a very young Laita Pawar. Apradh is one of my favourite films starring Ramesh and Seema deo. Unfortunately I don’t think these films have subtitles. Having been born and brought up in Maharashtra I know the language but you may have a problem following the story, well I guess you have to read the synopsis and take it on from there. I have seen several south Indian films without subtitles back in the Doordarshan days and was, more or less able to follow what was going on
    Lakhachi Goshta starring Raja Gosavi

    Apradh staring Ramesh and Seema Deo

    Ram Shastri

    I agree with reader Milind Phanse that Sulochana was better than Meena Kumari in Vahinichya Bangdya. I could not find it on YT, actually if you see the Hindi version first then the Marathi one then you will not have a problem understanding the film.
    Another classic bilingual is Padosi in Hindi and Shejari in Marathi. It is very unfortunate these films are not available on YT. The films were directed by V.Shantaram. It featured Jagirdar a Hindu in real life as a Muslim and Mazhar Khan a MUslim played a Hindu. Both the versions I think were shot simultaneously, I have seen both the films.

    • Thank you so much, Shilpi! I have to admit I’m a bit of a stickler for subtitles when I’m watching something – I hate to be making guesses, so if subtitles disappear even for a couple of dialogues, I get very restless. So no watching films without subtitles and only the story to go on, I’m afraid. But the names you’ve recommended are a good start – I’ll check online to see if any of these are on DVD (Induna might have them; I’ll see. They certainly have Marathi films in their catalogue, though I’m not sure if there are any old films there). Thanks, again.

  11. Madhuji,

    Everything that I felt about this gem of a person has already been mentioned by other persons above. It was always fascinating for me to see this suave man working in London for BBC transform himself into the impoverished villager in Do Bigha Zameen.

    The comments above have not really gone deep into his film roles, except that profound statement of anguish about Balraj Sahni’s unbelievably monochrome role in Do Raaste. In the crass world of commercial cinema, this is to be expected. But imagine the humiliation for a sensitive soul to portray such unartistic crap. Most Hindi directors of the 60s and 70s had no great regard to extract great performances from the supporting cast. It was this failing which makes most Bollywood fare unappetising. That Mr. Sahni could rise above the muck and give standout performances is the true mark of a great actor. Thank you for letting me know more about Balraj Sahni.

    • I suppose the point also is that as an actor, Balraj Sahni would eventually end up doing some roles that he perhaps didn’t believe in completely, or which were really pretty idiotic anyway. Or which he could have executed in his sleep… after all, not every actor works in just one great film after the other. Which is why, I think, films like Bhabhi, Chhoti Bahen, and Ek Phool Do Maali happen. Despite those, though, I tend to think of Balraj Sahni in terms of his good films: Kabuliwala, Haqeeqat, Do Bigha Zameen, Seema: those make up for the bad.

      Glad you liked the review.

  12. The following link may be interesting to some of the readers who admire Balraj Sahni Sab: More than an actor . At one point of time I forwarded this to many persons and advised them to translate/ get translated into regional languages. Finally some did that.
    The piece gives some insight into the man, his honesty, and his feelings for the nation/ country, state of education, institutions and many more things. I think all that he said is still relevant even today after so many years.
    I am unable to paste a link which directly takes to the site. You may correct it. Or one may have to copy and paste it in one’s browser.

    http://www.outlookindia.com/article/today-we-need-a-messiah/266141

    http://www.jnu.ac.in/jnuta/balraj_sahni.htm

  13. i read Bheeshm sahani ji was recollecting his childhood said balraj used to make fun of him saying that he is fair and you are dark. so you are adopted one.

  14. Thank you so much for this review. Will definitely try to read this book, googled a bit and the Hindi name if ‘Meri Filmi Aatmakatha’ (credit: http://www.bobbytalkscinema.com/recentpost.php?postid=postid050813051823 and http://www.rediff.com/entertai/2002/sep/20dinesh.htm ). Hope I can find the Hindi version some day, a copy seems to be in a library in UK, from the search so far.

    An actor par excellence, always in awe of the restraint he shows in his roles. agree with the commentator who saw him detached or self-effacing, like Naseeruddin Shah. Was reminded of some excerpts I’ve read of Naseer saab’s biography, reading this piece. Dinesh Raheja’s column also says Balraj Sahni contributed regularly to Bhishm Sahni’s magazine Nai Kahani.

    • Yes, I certainly think the original Hindi version would make for much better reading than the English translation. More of his voice, though the content of even the translated version provides interesting insights into the life and thinking of Balraj Sahni.

  15. i read an article about balraj ji that he wrote a story for prestigious sarsawati magazine but his story was rejected. he was so disheartened that he tore the pages. second when parakshit sahani asked on the sets of pavitra paapi how to become a good actor. balraj ji replied pehley achey insaan bano phir apney aap achey artist bun jaogey. third balraj ji was more in hindi when asked by a leader don’t know gandhi ji or nehru he started writing in his mother tongue Punjabi. balraj ji also lead India in international youth festivals. another auto biography i want to suggest is Rajender Jadhav Jhooj which was awarded sahitya akademi prize too. its a tale of how a poor boy with his father not helping family but with a resolute mother and his determination to change his circumstances , how life took new path and his interest evoke by his marathi teacher in poetry. its a touching tale.

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